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Romes geography forced the Romans to rely on overland transportation much more than other empires. The absence of ports and small number of major rivers lead the Romans to build a massive network of roads. At the height of the empire, the network included more than 80,000 kilometers of roadways, according to Hofstra University. The transportation system made the city of Rome the critical trade hub for the entire Mediterranean for centuries. Roman roads were of such high quality that many still exist today.
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Aside from its strategic military placement, Rome was also ideally positioned for agriculture. As the city grew on the seven hilltops, agriculture grew at the base of the hills. Soil on the Italian Peninsula is rich as a result of heavy deposits of volcanic ash, according to Hofstra University. The soil and the mild climate helped the Romans grow surplus olives and grain. Reliable food production allowed the population to grow, and the trade in olives and olive oil helped the Roman economy expand.
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The ancient city of Rome dominated most of Europe, Africa and the Middle East for centuries. Although it is tempting to ascribe Romes success to its military power or economic might, the geography of the city created the conditions that enabled trade and military expansion. Without a few quirks of geography, Rome might have slipped into obscurity forever.
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Although the Romans were renowned for their military might on land, the early republic was a very limited sea power. According to Heritage History, during the First Punic War, the republic had virtually no naval forces. To facilitate their invasion of Carthage, the Romans had to build 150 ships from scratch. One reason for the Romans lack of naval power was the lack of viable ports. The city of Rome is set far back from the ocean, and few other Roman cities offered easier access to ocean. Due to this quirk of geography, the Romans concentrated on building up their land-based forces.
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Its first settlers built the city of Rome atop seven different hills, according to Eduplace, a resource for history teachers. Building the city on high ground forced any attacking army to fight its way uphill, giving the defending forces a major advantage. The Romans understood this advantage and built fortresses on top of several of the hills. For example, Muses Realm reports that Capitoline Hill was the seat of Romes government and its largest fortress. Romes naturally defenses made the city almost immune to attack, a feature that allowed the city to grow and ultimately dominate its neighbors.
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Nick Robinson is a writer, instructor and graduate student. Before deciding to pursue an advanced degree, he worked as a teacher and administrator at three different colleges and universities, and as an education coach for Inside Track. Most of Robinsons writing centers on education and travel.